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Strength-based parenting: How seeing the best in your child brings out the best in everyone

What kind of world would it be if we could fill it with people who have a positive view of themselves, who use their abilities to forge a successful and happy life and who help others do the same? I think it would be more peaceful, more productive, more beautiful and more fun.


That sounds especially attractive these days, as we waken daily to events that seem almost overwhelming. Will our children be adaptable and resourceful enough to navigate and find security in this fast-changing, uncertain world?

Most parents want to raise their kids to be optimistic, resilient, accomplished and caring toward themselves and others. But, our society has a bad case of "right intention, wrong direction.” We try to achieve positive ends through negative means: We criticize, push, cajole and nag our kids about their weaknesses and how they’re falling short of the mark—and end up feeling like bad cop, wet blanket and killjoy all rolled into one.

Are we so busy raising our kids to be the person society says they should be that we’re not allowing them to grow into the person they actually are?

The good news is that, as parents raising the future generations who will be charged with stewardship of this revolving wonder called Earth, we can directly influence the process, challenge these negative habits and do things differently.

The bonus: We’ll get off the criticism-go-round and have a happier, more harmonious family life.

Strength-based parenting is a new, powerful way to help you notice your child’s strengths and then find natural opportunities for those strengths to be developed—even as part of disciplining your child.

A strength isn’t just something your child is good at. Psychologists have defined three main characteristics of a strength: high performance, high energy and high use. A strength is something your child naturally does well, happily and often. So far, researchers have identified more than 100 strengths—from adaptability to zest—that can be measured and improved.

The key to becoming a strength-based parent is to form the habit of swapping the question “What needs to be fixed?” with “What strengths are needed to handle this situation?” I call it flipping the Strength Switch.

Best of all, you can start today—by noticing a strength in your child and having a conversation about it: Asking your child which of her strengths she might use to solve a problem she’s facing. Letting your child know you appreciate how his strengths help the family. Or doing the “what went well” exercise together by naming three things that went well for your child that day.

Three decades of science confirm the advantages of focusing on strengths. Strength awareness benefits our kids in four ways:

1. It helps kids reach their full potential

People at the top of their field—say, Pulitzer Prize winners or Olympians—don’t excel because they eradicated their weaknesses, but because they’ve learned to maximize their strengths. Our kids’ path to their personal best is through building their strengths. Focusing on weakness takes performance from a low baseline to average. When we focus on strengths, there’s no ceiling.

2. It builds kids’ well-being

Using their strengths to navigate the world is connected to increases in kids’ life satisfaction, confidence and positive emotions. In my research, children and teenagers with strength-based parents are less stressed, better at handling friendship issues, better at meeting homework deadlines, and get better grades—important counterweights to concerns about teen depression, bullying, and underachievement.

3. Kids improve faster when working on strengths

Psychologists call this the multiplier effect. Because our strengths have a genetic component, when we work on improving our strengths, we improve much faster and reach higher milestones than when we work on improving weakness.

4. It fosters a better parent-child connection

In one of my studies, parents felt happier and more confident after just three weeks of strength focus training. Strengths are a positive common ground where parents and kids can connect. You learn to see and appreciate the best in each other. That builds trust and affection. And when tensions arise, it’s easier to remember that your kid isn’t always like this.

Strengths awareness is gaining traction in society. More than 13 million people in more than 100 countries have taken strengths tests such as the Gallup StrengthsFinder, Realise2 and the Values in Action (VIA) Survey. More than half a million children have taken the VIA Youth Survey.

I’ve heard countless stories from kids of strength-based resilience, improved problem-solving, character-building prowess and family bonding:

Before searching for the negatives in something, I seek out the positives. The “what went well” exercise encourages me to do this. My family and I share three “what went wells” each night. My mom even uses it at work!

Learning my strengths made me think about my moods and how I can improve them to be a better person.

I used to let stress and anxiety consume my thoughts. Now I’ve learned to identify the cause of the problem and look for ways to address it.

… And from parents:

We did a strengths profile of our family and put it on the fridge. Now, we know our strengths I create opportunities for the kids to use their strengths at home. I ask Olivia and Jackson to use their zest to welcome guests, while Elijah’s judgment is used to rein in risk. The kids appreciate playing to each others’ strengths within the family.

I love seeing Will’s quiet confidence when he methodically tackles problems. We make eye contact and I see his almost imperceptible nod to say, “I’ve got this,” and my nod back that says, “I know.”

Once kids learn to see their strengths, they can start encouraging them in others. Perhaps with this special kind of awareness spreading through our communities, we can together make this world a stronger, more supportive place.

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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